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September 12, 2008 -- AlterNet (US)

Did McCain Tamper With the Drug Enforcement Agency to Protect His Career?

By Matt Stoller, Open Left

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Original article:

A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one. You've probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s. Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and once a close friend of the McCains, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode.

And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy's drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife's theft of illegal prescription drugs. John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time -- this was after the Keating 5 scandal -- another major scandal would have derailed his career. Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve. As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCains do business.

Gosinski was an employee of Cindy McCain who helped her run her charity, the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT), in the early to mid-1990s. At the time Gosinski worked for her, Cindy McCain was addicted to prescription painkillers, taking between 30 and 50 pills a day of Vicodin and/or Percocet. She had doctors writing out prescriptions in other people's names, including Gosinski's. When Gosinski found one of the prescription slips, he got angry, and Cindy had him fired. This part of the story is just kind of sad, but not damning; Cindy McCain was a lonely and bored wife who turned to drugs in place of what was a loveless marriage full of fundraisers and, in all likelihood, various infidelities (or so were the rumors Gosinski heard at the time).

Now, it begins to get dangerous and vicious after Gosinksi was fired. At first the McCains said they'd help him find a job, but it became clear to Gosinksi that McCain was using his political connections to blackball him from another job in Republican politics in Arizona. So he sued the McCains for wrongful termination and went to the Drug Enforcement Agency to find out the legal repercussions of having prescriptions for painkillers written in his name. To retaliate, McCain then had his political ally Rick Romley open an extortion investigation against Gosinksi. In the course of that investigation, it was revealed that the DEA was circling around Cindy McCain and her charity. It's not clear what they were investigating her for, but it is clear she was bringing illegal prescription drugs around the world on a diplomatic passport secured for her by McCain's Senate office.

McCain's Senate staff and Senate resources were intimately involved in Cindy's work with the charity. John McCain procured her a diplomatic passport, which meant that her bags were not searched by customs, and Mark Salter and Torie Clarke were both coordinating with Gosinski on logistics for the trips abroad. Here's Gosinski on the coordination with McCain's Senate staff.

The charity was supposed to conduct medical missions abroad, but Cindy was also stealing from the charity's supply of drugs for her own personal use. In August of 1994, the story was going to come out, and so John McCain came out with his side of the story. He claimed he didn't know that Cindy McCain was using drugs until 1994, a clear lie. Cindy McCain overdosed in 1991, and John McCain went to the hospital in Sedona and told the hospital staff not to make the information about Cindy public. Gosinski heard about the overdose in 1992, after he began work for Cindy McCain.

There are lots of unanswered questions, but the basic contours of the story are clear: John McCain used his position as a senator to help his wife avoid being searched by customs, and somehow his wife managed to avoid any charges by the DEA or the state (which has mandatory minimums in cases like this) on drug charges despite ample evidence. Did the DEA or the state not file charges against her because of political pressure? Did they keep this on the federal level to avoid mandatory minimums for Cindy McCain because of political pressure from McCain? Did John McCain and/or his Senate staff tamper with a criminal investigation of his wife and her conspiracy to fraudulently obtain illegal drugs?

Whether illegal or not -- and an investigation by Congress should be conducted -- this is clearly a massive and overreaching case of both corruption on a personal, sordid level and an abuse of power. And you might be seeing Gosinski in the mainstream media soon.

We need an investigation into what happened here. What did McCain know about the investigation of his wife, and did he use his power as a senator to help her abuse drugs or avoid prosecution? When he was one of a hundred senators, it was of minor importance. And now? Well, it would be nice to know if the next president is engaged in behavior more characteristic of an influence-peddling mob boss than an upright politician.

Update: Nick Juliano at Raw Story has more on the allegations coming out against McCain. There are journal entries from Gosinski and details about the McCain's "marriage of convenience." I'm still struck by the diplomatic passport for Cindy that allowed her to keep her own bags away from customs, which would have found her drug stash when she was on non-surgical trips to El Salvador and Bangladesh. This passport was procured by John McCain's Senate office, and McCain aides Salter and Clarke often worked on logistics for Cindy's charity.

Matt Stoller blogs at OpenLeft.

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